As March approaches, Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog hosts the In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb Blogathon!
This event recognizes the films we enter with great trepidation only to be utterly charmed by an unexpected gem!
For me, that movie is I Bury the Living.
Lower Your Expectations, You’ll Never Be Disappointed!
As an audience member, I describe my expectations as “cautiously optimistic”, but I sometimes I can tell when a film will be terrible.
I have learned to lower my expectations.
If it’s bad, I won’t be disappointed, and if I get lucky, things come full circle and be great.
But there are terrible films, absolute stinkers, films whose only cinematic value is the time you spend wondering why? why? why? There are terrible movies out there like Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory or The Nasty Rabbit and Rubber, as I reminisce and shudder in horror. There is no link for Rubber. I could not write about Rubber! Oh the horror, the meta-horror! For me, returning to any of those films would involve a Clockwork Orange-like torture device set up, no thank you!
Then there are those films you are super-excited about, you look forward to seeing them. Those films will almost inevitably disappoint, films like Timeline, Jurassic Park 4. Apparently I have extraordinary expectations for Michael Crichton adaptations. I won’t know how great these films are because I cannot separate the films from my expectations.
When you expect a bad film, you are hard to disappoint, and sometimes you even get a pleasant surprise.
Bait and Switch
Albert Band directed I Bury the Living. I have only seen one other film directed by Albert Band, and that was Ghoulies II so already things don’t bode well. I looked up Albert Band and discovered his credits included a film with José Ferrer entitled Dracula’s Dog (which by the title alone, you know I am dying to see).
As you can imagine, my expectations for I Bury the Living were not high.
But if you followed my blog for a while, you know I love schlock. In my opinion, there is nothing better than an awful 1950s film. And an awful zombie horror film? Well, that’s just icing on the cake!
So I settled down to watch an awful mess and was pleasantly disappointed. Not only are there no zombies, but I Bury the Living is an intriguing thriller.
One of his duties as a bank manager stipulates that Robert Kraft (Richard Boone) must manage the Immortal Hills Cemetery for a year. The caretaker Andy (Theodore Bikel in high school theater quality old-age makeup and mysterious globetrotting accent Scottish? Irish? Rhodesian? Venezuelan? I have no idea where his character is supposed to be from) shows Robert the ropes and the cemetery map. The map shows an aerial view of the cemetery plots. The white pins denote the sold vacant plots and the black pins denote the filled plots.
Robert’s friends come by and purchase plots, accidentally Robert puts black pins in their plots. Later he discovers they died in a car accident. Does that sound like a coincidence? Robert is not so certain. To dispel his guilty conscience, he randomly selects a sold plot and changes the pin from white to black. Several days later he discovers the owner of the randomly selected plot has died.
Robert keeps changing the pins try to disprove his theory, but as the deaths pile up, Robert fears the map and its dark supernatural power. The film focuses on the downward spiral of a man, slowly driven to madness.
I won’t give away too much else because it is a film worth watching.
But I will show you what happens to the map, look!
Like a typical 1950s film, the film wraps itself into a neat and tidy little explanation. And after an extensive web-search, I discovered that many movie bloggers enjoy this film, but have issues with the film’s ending. Author, Stephen King is also in this camp, however, King still ranks I Bury the Living number 16 of the 20 scariest films ever made.
In Defense of the “Mediocre” Endings
Without spoiling the film, let me explain why the ending is perfectly fine in my book.
The filmmakers of the 1950s had no concept of the world we live in today. Nowadays someone can enter a film title in a hand-held device and watch it instantly while waiting for a smog check.
Movies like I Bury the Living were ephemeral products, the filmmakers could not imagine their films would be watched after their first run, much less combed over and written about by the blogging hordes.
In the 1950s, B-Movies needed to grab your attention with a shocking poster and a sensational title, and the horror films directly reflected society’s fears. Whether it was juvenile delinquents, minorities, Communists, or Nuclear Weapons, America in the 1950s was a nation in fear.
I Bury the Living is about a man who believes he can play God. It indirectly addresses the nation’s subconscious fears of advanced weaponry. By diminishing the map’s supernatural power, the film removes irrational fears when reason and logic ultimately triumph over the unexplained. While contemporary audiences consider these simple endings as Scooby-Doo-ish, the ending’s intent is to remove fear.
If we look at these films and remember their intended audience, we can better understand the filmmakers and their choices. While a contemporary viewer may not like the choices made, he or she can appreciate a picture better.
What Makes This Film Great
If you are squeamish, there is no need to fret, I Bury the Living is not gruesome, it is a psychological mystery similar to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.
The plot may seem a little corny, but the film is well made. I Bury the Living is a low-budget film, not a low-quality film. It is an intriguing story shot in a combined expressionistic and film noir style.
It is well acted and well-directed and worth your time, and not in a terrible way!
Make sure you visit Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog and check out the full In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb Blogathon.
Check out how other writers overcome their lackluster expectations and enjoy films like The Ref, When Harry Met Sally, Hamlet, and The Big Sleep (among other films).
Why didn’t I have low expectations for any of those films?
Then again, I am the person looking forward to Dracula’s Dog.
Lower your expectations, you’ll rarely be disappointed!
Ciao for now, dearies!
I Bury the Living. Dir. Albert Band. Perf. Richard Boone. United Artists, 1958. YouTube.
King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. New York: Gallery, 2010. Print.